Friday, March 05, 2010

Rachel's Slush Week entry

by Rachel

(For details on Slush Week, see Chasya's introduction.)

Dear (Agent's name),

Before she was F. Scott Fitzgerald's muse, seventeen-year-old Zelda Sayre was a mischief maker in her childhood town of Montgomery, Alabama. Known for wearing flesh-colored bathing suits and staying out late with boys, she caused her daddy some real grief.

Flirting with boys and breaking their hearts was a daily occurrence for Zelda. Until she met Scott. He was a handsome lieutenant on base near her hometown. With one dance, Zelda was in love with him. But Scott was transferred to a different base, and love letters helped their romance. After an on-again, off-again courtship, they were finally married.

And although their marriage was fun, darker things ran deep underneath the surface, like Scott's obvious alcoholism and the beginning of her schizophrenia. Growing up seems like a boring task and Zelda never thought she'd have to do it. But she can't stay a child much longer, can she?

My YA historical fiction, GOLDEN, is complete at 80,000 words. The full manuscript is available if requested. Thank you for your time and consideration.


Sincerely,
(Author's name)


Dear (Agent's name),

Before she was F. Scott Fitzgerald's muse, seventeen-year-old Zelda Sayre was a mischief maker in her childhood town of Montgomery, Alabama. Known for wearing flesh-colored bathing suits and staying out late with boys, she caused her daddy some real grief.

This query opening is quick to the point and sets the reader up nicely.

Flirting with boys and breaking their hearts was a daily occurrence for Zelda. Until she met Scott. He was a handsome lieutenant on base near her hometown. With one dance, Zelda was in love with him. But Scott was transferred to a different base, and love letters helped their romance. (This could do with some elaboration. How did love letters help their romance? Did it need help? Was Scott in love with Zelda? The writer only says Zelda was in love with Scott, making it sound like a one-sided romance.) After an on-again, off-again courtship, they were finally married. (This is vague. This is only a query letter, but I’d still like to see some more specific information. Their relationship isn’t standing out from other relationships here and this is problematic considering this is fiction.)

And although their marriage was fun (“Fun” doesn’t sound like the right word to use here. Maybe “carefree”, “enjoyable”?), darker things ran deep underneath the surface, like Scott's obvious alcoholism and the beginning of her schizophrenia. Growing up seems like a boring task and Zelda never thought she'd have to do it. But she can't stay a child much longer, can she? (I was a little lost here. The author explains Scott’s alcoholism and Zelda’s schizophrenia, then explains Zelda needing to grow up. The author needs to be clear why Zelda needs to grow up here. It didn’t make sense to me while reading.)

My YA historical fiction, GOLDEN, is complete at 80,000 words. The full manuscript is available if requested. Thank you for your time and consideration.

This is tricky. It sounds as though this novel tracks Zelda through her teen years and beyond, into marriage. That makes me wary of how it fits into the young adult market, especially knowing where the story is going. Because this is a known story and an unusual choice of subject matter, the writer needs to compare it to something else that is successful in order to put the reader’s mind at ease and demonstrate a knowledge of the market they’re writing for.

Sincerely,
(Author's name)


Thanks again for participating in Slush Week!

5 comments:

  1. Rachel, I agree, this doesn't seem to be a YA novel and it leaves us with more questions than answers. That said, I still find this query intriguing enough to want to know more; no doubt because of the choice of the characters' names and to see how the author weaves such stellar literary icons into his/her work . Would you have asked to see more?

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  2. I think so, Lynn. The subject is quite interesting and just because I have some suggestions for the query doesn't necessarily mean I wouldn't want to see the project. :)

    ~ Rachel

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  3. Thanks for all of these. This series gives enlightening insight into the way an agent views a query.

    Because so many agents advise against presuming to compare unpublished work to bestsellers, I'm interested in how most of you here at DGLM want specific comp titles. New writers have a fine line to walk.

    I personally found the above query intriguing but clunky--a little school book report-y. Maybe the author is trying too hard?

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  4. As a reader: If this was the back cover I saw in the book store, I'd definitely be intrigued enough to pick it up. I would be surprised to find it in the YA section though.

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  5. 'New writers have a fine line to walk.'

    Here's some ways to think of it, then: where would your book go in Borders? Complete the following sentence 'if you like X and Y, you'll like my book'. Which two books *published in the last two years* is it like?

    You want to launch a book into a crowded, current marketplace. Mentioning a couple of recent books shows a little bit of awareness of that marketplace - comparing yourself to Hemingway or Salinger comes across, at this stage at least, a little premature and arrogant. Saying 'it's like Twilight meets The Da Vinci Code' suggests you should probably read more.

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